TasteTravel – Alaska: Tutka Bay Lodge and a recipe for Shrimp, Kale and Israeli Couscous

TasteTravel – Alaska: Tutka Bay Lodge and a recipe for Shrimp, Kale and Israeli Couscous

tbl_AA5D_MG_1283-325x325It would have been simpler to meditate. Instead, last summer I traveled to Alaska. More specifically, I traveled 3,000 miles on three planes of diminishing size, and one water taxi to Tutka Bay Lodge. Tutka Bay sits at the mouth of a rugged seven-mile fjord stretching into the glacier capped Kenai mountains, 125 air miles south of Anchorage. It’s not accessible by road, only by sea plane or a water taxi from Homer which multitasks as a mail and food delivery, garbage collection, and all-purpose shuttle. If you want to get away from it all, this is for you. It’s well worth the trip.

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Before you pack your compass, first aid kit, and water purification tablets, let’s be perfectly clear. This is not roughing it. This is not even glamping. This is wilderness isolation in extreme comfort. You will find yourself in a lodge, tucked into plush beds in cozy private cabins, waited upon 24/7 by an attentive staff, and dining in a first class restaurant. Sure, you are in the remote wilderness on a spit of land flanked by a rugged fjord and craggy mountains dotted with old growth Sitka spruce. Yes, that’s an ancient volcano looming in the distance, waiting ever so patiently for another opportunity to express itself. Indeed, you will be sharing your outdoor space with resident bald eagles, floating otters, and possibly an orca or two. You will also be pampered, fed and catered to in a lodge staffed with servers doubling as mountain guides, valets doubling as naturalists, and professional chefs doubling as culinary instructors in a teaching kitchen converted from a re-purposed two-story crabbing boat.

Widgeon Lynda Balslev

Tutka Cooking Class Lynda Balslev

Halibut The point is that there is something for everyone at Tutka, with the most notable activity being nothing. Because, while your every whim will be addressed and serviced, your tummy fed, your fitness itch scratched, your need for nature connected, you will find yourself in the most spectacular vignette of nowhere, amidst staggering scenery and blissful solitude. Activities are plentiful, and peace is everywhere, which yields the treasure of perspective and balance. So, whether you crave a weekend or a week to find your center, this is the the place to be. Just leave yourself a day to get there.

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Tutka kayaks Lynda Balslev
The following recipe is inspired by a delicious memory from Tutka Bay Lodge.

Shrimp Kale and Israeli Cousous
Serves 4 to 6

Alaska Shrimp Tutka

Ingredients:
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups Israeli cousous
2 cups chicken stock, plus 1/4 cup
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound large (18/20) shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails intact
1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
1 bunch purple kale, tough ribs removed, torn into 2-inch pieces
1 garlic clove, minced

Method:
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the couscous and stir to coat. Cook until the couscous is light golden, 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Carefully add the 2 cups stock. Reduce heat to low, then cover and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed and the couscous is tender. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice and zest, paprika, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Keep warm.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Add the shrimp in one layer to the skillet. Cook until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, turning once. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate.

In the same skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil and the red chili flakes over medium heat. Add the kale and garlic and sauté until the kale leaves begin to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the 1/4 cup stock and continue to sauté until liquid evaporates, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Season with salt.

To serve, divide the couscous between serving plates or shallow bowls. Top with the kale. Arrange the shrimp over the kale. Garnish with fresh snipped herbs such as oregano, thyme leaves and chives.
Homer View Lynda Balslev

Top 3 photos courtesy of Tutka Bay Lodge. All other photos by Lynda Balslev.

Shrimp Tostadas with Black Bean and Corn Salsa

Shrimp Tostadas with Black Bean and Corn Salsa

I confess that I often find Mexican food too dense for my garden-fresh sensibilities, so when I cook Mexican-inspired food at home, I lighten it up with lots of fresh vegetables, homemade salsa and herbs. We made these tostadas the other night and served the ingredients buffet-style, so everyone could pile on the garnishes to their taste.

Shrimp Tostadas with Black Bean and Corn Salsa

Fresh summer corn cut straight from the cob is sweet and crisp – no cooking required. When cutting the corn, lay the husked cob on a cutting board and carefully slice kernels off with a chef’s knife, rotating the cob. Sweep the kernels and milk into the bowl for the salsa. Serves 4 to 6.

For the shrimp:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon Sriracha or hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined

For the black bean salsa:
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
Corn kernels from one ear of corn
1 small red onion, chopped
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely chopped
Juice of half a lime
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 to 2 teaspoons hot sauce, to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 small handful cilantro sprigs, chopped

Tostada shells
Lettuce leaves
Tomato salsa
1 avocado, sliced
Fresh cilantro sprigs
Lime wedges

Whisk 1 tablespoon olive oil, lime juice, hot sauce, cumin, salt and pepper together in a medium bowl. Add shrimp and toss to coat. Set aside.

Combine all of the salsa ingredients together in a bowl and mix well. Taste for seasoning.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in skillet over medium high heat (or prepare grill for direct cooking over medium heat). Remove shrimp from the marinade, shaking off any excess and transfer to skillet 0r grill. Cook shrimp until pink on both sides and just cooked through, turning once, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a bowl.

To assemble tostadas, lay a lettuce leaf over the corn shell. Spoon the black bean salsa over the lettuce. Top with 2 to 3 shrimp. Spoon tomato salsa over. Garnish with avocado slices and fresh cilantro. Squeeze a few drops of lime juice over each tostada. Serve immediately.

Shrimp and Cheese Nachos

Shrimp Cheese Nachos 1

Now, shush. I gave you lentils in my last post. Now you will get nachos. C’mon. We all need a little cheesy nacho goodness to balance out the healthy food around here. Besides, if we are going to analyze this, then this plate of fun food isn’t as bad as you think. I did my best to keep it light and fresh, just close your eyes and enjoy the cheese. And yes I called this dinner.

Shrimp Nachos

You don’t need a whole pound of shrimp for this recipe, but I do recommend it so you can pop a few in your mouth before serving.

Serves 6 (or 4 if you call this dinner)

Shrimp:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined

1 to 2 ripe but not mushy avocados, diced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cumin

8 ounces tortilla chips
3 cups Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, grated, plus 1 cup for broiling
3 green onions, white and green parts separated, thinly sliced
2 jalapeno peppers, stemmed and seeded, finely chopped
1/2 small red onion, finely diced

1 large vine-ripened tomato, cored, diced
½ cup cilantro leaves, loosely packed

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, cumin and red pepper flakes and stir until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add the shrimp in one layer. Cook until pink and just cooked through, turning once, about 2 minutes. (It’s ok if the shrimp are a little under-done. They will continue to cook in the oven). Remove from pan and drain on paper towel lined plates.

Combine the avocado, lime juice, salt, pepper and cumin in a small bowl and gently stir to coat.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spread half of the tortilla chips in a large rimmed baking pan. Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups of the cheese, half of the white scallions, half of the jalapenos and half of the red onion over the chips. Top with remaining chips, 1 1/2 cups cheese, white scallions, jalapenos and red onion. Bake in the oven until the cheese is melted and nachos are hot, 10 to 12 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven and turn on the broiler. Arrange the shrimp over the cheese. Sprinkle the last 1 cup cheese over the shrimp. Broil to melt the top cheese, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven. Scatter the avocado, tomatoes, green scallions, and cilantro evenly over the top. Serve immediately with salsa and guacamole if desired.

Grilled Shrimp with Garlicky Pea Puree

shrimp pea puree tastefood

~ Grilled Shrimp with Garlicky Pea Purée ~

Here’s a fresh twist on the classic shrimp cocktail. Rather than dipping poached shrimp in a spicy tomato sauce, how about dipping grilled shrimp in a garlicky pea purée?

I like to make this pea purée when sweet peas are in season. It’s an incredibly versatile condiment. Not only is the purée a perfect garnish to sweet and briny shrimp, it tastes great with other seafood such as scallops, salmon and halibut. It also makes a great topping for crostini, a dip for cruditées or steamed new potatoes.

Grilled Shrimp with Garlicky Pea Purée

If fresh peas are out of season, frozen peas may be substituted. Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer.

Purée:
2 cups fresh peas or 12 ounces frozen peas, defrosted, room temperature
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 large garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra as needed
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Marinade:
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Tabasco or hot sauce
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of sugar

1 pound medium (21/25) shrimp, peeled, tails intact, deveined

If using fresh peas, fill a medium saucepan halfway with water (do not add salt as this will toughen the peas) and bring to a boil. Add the peas and cook until bright green in color and tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Add the remaining puree ingredients and process to blend. (If using frozen peas, skip the first step and add the peas with the remaining ingredients to the food processor and process to blend). If purée is too thick, add more olive oil to achieve desired consistency. Taste for seasoning.

Whisk all of the marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Add the shrimp and turn to coat. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat. Thread shrimp on skewers. Grill over high heat with the lid closed until just cooked through, turning once, 2 to 4 minutes.

Serve the shrimp warm with the pea purée for dipping, or spoon dollops of the pea puree over the shrimp.

This is a great beat-the-heat recipe for the summer.  If you like this you might also enjoy these recipes from TasteFood:
Smoked Salmon Salad Tartines
Avocado Bruschetta with Balsamic Syrup
Bloody Mary Gazpacho

Shrimp, Broccolini and Tomato Pasta

broccoli shrimp pasta tastefood

~ Shrimp, Broccolini, Plum Tomatoes, Basil, Garlic, Chili, Spaghetti ~

Nothing beats a fresh and bright bowl of pasta, whipped up in less than 30 minutes, for an easy weeknight dinner. This dish has it all: Crisp tender broccolini and sauteed shrimp tossed in a simple tomato sauce flavored with basil, garlic and chili.  It’s elegant, light and utterly delicious. Happy Monday!

Spaghetti with Shrimp, Broccolini and Basil
Serves 4

1 pound spaghetti or linguine
Salt
Extra-vrigin olive oil
Crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 pound broccolini, ends trimmed, cut in 1-inch pieces
3/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled with tails intact, deveined
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 (28 ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes, drained
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup whole basil leaves
Grated Parmigiano cheese, optional

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain  and transfer to a large serving bowl.

While the pasta is cooking, heat one tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of red pepper flakes in a skillet. Add broccolini and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sauté until bright in color and crisp tender. Transfer broccolini to a plate.

Add 1 tablespoon oil and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes to same skillet.
Add shrimp in one layer, in batches if necessary. Cook until pink on both sides and just cooked through, 2-3 minutes. Transfer shrimp to another plate.

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, one teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Simmer 5 minutes, breaking tomatoes apart with a spoon. Taste for seasoning and add a teaspoon of sugar if needed. Add shrimp, broccolini and tomatoes to the spaghetti. Toss to combine. Add basil and toss again. Divide among serving plates. Grind more pepper over the pasta and sprinkle with cheese if using.

Shrimp Puttanesca

shrimp puttanesca x
It took me a long while to make puttanesca – that feisty Italian tomato sauce packed with briny, sharp, spicy, fishy flavors. I confess it was the anchovies. While I don’t mind anchovies, I don’t liberally cook with them either, harboring a childhood timidity toward their pungent fishiness. I should know better: Anchovies are a magical ingredient, a bright star in the cuisines of the Mediterranean and Asia (think fish sauce). When used with restraint, anchovies melt into a dish, amplifying flavor and producing an elusive umami quality that keeps us digging in for more. So in the spirit of the New Year and a kick in the derriere, I made this puttanesca-inspired sauce, and now I am smitten. Goodness knows why I waited so long.

Shrimp Puttanesca

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Serves 4

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
20 to 24 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
Salt
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 anchovy filets, chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
1 pound grape tomatoes, halved if large
1/3 cup pitted Kalamata or oil-cured olives, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons capers, drained and rinsed
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shrimp in one layer and lightly season with salt. Cook until pink on both sides and barely cooked through the centers (they will continue to cook in the sauce), about 4 minutes, turning once. Transfer to a plate.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to the same skillet. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic, anchovies, and red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, olives, white wine, tomato paste, capers, and black pepper. Cook until the tomatoes break down and the sauce thickens, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently to break up the tomatoes.

Nestle the shrimp into the sauce and simmer until thoroughly cooked and heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the parsley. Serve warm with crusty bread.

 

Fish Cakes

Fish Cakes

Calling these “fish cakes” really doesn’t do them justice. The “fish” part is right, but “cake” infers flour, fat and eggs with a bread-like crumb. These crispy succulent fish patties have none of that. They are packed with 3 types of fish, fresh herbs and chiles, and just a little filler to hold them together. I’ve combined sweet baby shrimp, salmon and Alaskan smoked halibut in this recipe, but feel free to adjust the quantities of each, so long as you have about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds in total. I do recommend including smoked fish – it’s flavor adds a certain heartiness and saltiness to these, er, cakes, evoking the seaside on a grey and misty autumn day.

Fish Cakes

Finely chop the fish instead of processing in a food processor. This will ensure a chunky – not pasty – consistency. Makes about 16 (2-inch) cakes.

1 3/4 cups Panko breadcrumbs, divided
1 salmon fillet, about 6 ounces, skin and pin-bones removed, finely chopped
3/4 pound cooked baby shrimp, finely chopped
1/2 pound smoked fish (halibut or salmon), finely chopped
1 red jalapeno chile peppers, stemmed and seeded, finely minced
1/4 cup grated yellow onion, with juices
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons whole milk Greek yogurt or sour cream
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley and/or cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Sauce:
1 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon Sriracha, or to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt

Extra-virgin olive oil

Place 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl. Set aside. Place remaining 1/4 cup breadcrumbs and all of the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Gently mix to thoroughly combine, without overmixing. With a light hand, carefully form 2-inch patties. Roll in the reserved breadcrumbs to coat and arrange in one layer on a tray or platter. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours.
Prepare the sauce: Whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Keep refrigerated until use.
Fry the fish cakes: Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish cakes in batches without overcrowding. Fry until brown and crispy on both sides, turning once. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Keep warm. Serve  with Yogurt Sriracha Sauce.

If you like this, you might enjoy these TasteFood recipes:
Smoky Fennel Salmon Chowder
Cioppino with a Twist
Smoked Mackerel Pate with Horseradish and Dill